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Posted on May 23, 2012 in Races | 15 comments

Reach the Beach MA: Part 3

Let me paint you a word picture:

It is 6:00 AM. I’ve been up since 7 AM the previous morning and have already run 2.8 miles straight up the side of a mountain, followed by 4.78 miles in the pitch black woods. We are living out of a van. I am operating on less than an hour of sleep, and there is only one leg left between me and having completed my part of a 200-mile relay race. Miraculously, spirits are still high!

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Hi Patricia!

My last leg was 3.36 miles through a really lovely set of neighborhoods. I got to run along bike paths, just like I’m used to at home, and for once it was actually relatively flat the entire way through — finally! The sun was rising and it was nice and cool — I really enjoyed my last leg. Granted, I was totally exhausted and my legs were pretty much giving out on me, but I just kept telling myself that it was just a 5K. There was just one 5K left between me and being done, being finished, getting to go back to my team, rest, and say that I DID it. Of course, it wasn’t really that easy. It’s never “just a 5K” with me, even when I haven’t run 8 miles beforehand, even when I have gotten a legitimate night’s sleep. But I repeated that mantra over and over to myself and it helped propel me forward in spite of a lot of odds. When that stopped working, I start to employ other games to make myself go just a little further.

I would say “Okay, just run to that lamp post,” and then I’d reach the lamp post and tell myself “Okay, now just run to that mailbox.” It was pretty excruciating, but it worked! Somehow, though my foot was throbbing and my legs were heavy and I was going so slowly that I was basically just walking in running form, I managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Finally, as I rounded a corner and saw a few volunteers standing around, I knew that I was nearing the finish. The second I saw the tell-tale jackets of my team members standing in the distance, I summoned what little remaining strength I had and funneled it all into my finish. It might not have been my fastest sprint ever, but I did sprint to the end! However the rest of the leg — and race in general — went, at least I know that I finished strong!

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I admit to having shed just a few tears of happiness and astonishment at the finish line (which were captured on tape by our videographer much to my chagrin). I did it! I didn’t die! I got to check off all three legs, and let me tell you: crossing off that final box was an amazing feeling.

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I survived!

Of course, while I may have been finished, every single other one of my teammates still had to do their final legs as well. This meant that there was still quite a while until I’d be physically crossing the finish line. It was easy to stay excited while my vanmates were all running there legs, since we were still offering support to them as they went along.

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That said, after our van was done, it was pretty hard to stick out the following 5 hours with enthusiasm. We all knew we were finished with the running, and the exhaustion set in HARD. We were amped up for our teammates in van 2 still out there doing their thing, but I know that I had more than a few whiny moments where all I could think was “I just want to go hoooome.”

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They did have delicious burrito bowls and beer at the finish line, which helped kill a little bit of time rather pleasantly, hehe, but it really didn’t take long for this to happen:

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I ended up falling asleep in the van for a little bit, walking the beach, and eventually our second van made it to the finish area so that we could all run in with Ashley and finish together.


Picture stolen from Anne

I won’t lie, after the previous 31 hours, the very thought of having to run the last 20 feet through the finish line tunnel seemed painful, hahaha. Still, that feeling of being able to run through the end together was priceless!


Picture from Monica

This is actually my first real race medal! Most of the other races I’ve done haven’t given out anything at the end, and the Navy Five Miler I did gave out coins instead of actual medals. Just another item in a long list of firsts from the weekend: first relay, first race medal, first time staying awake for that long, first time running more than once in a day, first time running over 10 cumulative miles… the list goes on!

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FINISHER!

What an epic experience. EPIC, I SAY! I am so, so grateful to my fellow teammates, New Balance, and the Reach the Beach organizers, just for allowing me to have the opportunity to even participate in this event. Let’s be honest, there’s no way that I would have ever gotten the guts to do something like this on my own. And now I can say that I’ve done it! Really done it! Hip, hip, huzzah!!

As mentioned, I’m in St. Maarten now, so posting is officially on hiatus until I return. I still have the New Balance Factory tour to cover, as well as all my thoughts about this experience in general. There is so much wrapped up in what happened during the race, what my expectations were, what the reality was, separating the awesomeness from the epicness, and I am still sorting through ALL OF THE FEELINGS that I have about it all. So keep your eyes akimbo for a final wrap-up post when I return (if/when I get the wherewithall to organize them into something legible, haha), especially if you’ve been thinking about signing up for a relay race or anything similar.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue geeking out about the entire weekend… from my beach chaise in St. Maarten. It’s okay to be jealous. 😉

Have an amazing rest of your week!!

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Posted on May 22, 2012 in Races | 5 comments

Reach the Beach MA: Part 2

Oh hai. So I’m on my way to St. Maarten with the fam right now (a well-earned vacation, I hopes?), but wanted to pick up where I left off with the Reach the Beach Relay recaps! (Here’s Part 1 if you missed it!)

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So, having left off last time just after I finished my first leg of the race (and THE first leg of the race, since I was runner #1!), let me give a quick overview of how this relay worked. There were 12 runners divided up into two vans, as you know. All six of our van’s runners ran, while the other van had downtime. Then, when our 6th runner (Sarah) was done, she handed off the baton to our 7th runner (Tina), who was the first runner of van two. Then we got a few hours of downtime while their van ran, until it was time to trade off and start all over again for leg 2!

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We really could not have been more lucky with the weather from this weekend, honestly. It was SO beautiful out — definitely hot, but breezy and gorgeous. Waiting at all the transition areas was so nice, and I was so grateful that we got to spend so much time outdoors. Unfortunately, I did get a little sunburned (face, chest, shoulders), but I’m just considering that as prep for St. Maarten, haha.

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Bridget and me at a gorgeous lakeside transition area.

During our first long stretch of downtime (starting somwhere between 3 and 4 PM, I think?) we took the opportunity to grab some REAL food (aside from the multitude of snacks that were consumed in the van, haha). Our first attempt at food was a bust — two other RTB teams were already there and the place was too small to accommodate us all! We ended up at the Boynton Restaurant instead, which came highly recommended by one of our local Boston-based team members.

I got spaghetti and meatballs, which came with a little salad too. Sadly, at this point in the race I admit that I was getting pretty sloppy with picture taking. I didn’t bring my laptop to Boston with me, so I couldn’t offload my photos from my DSLR. With only a 4 gig memory card, I needed to be conservative! So sans photographic evidence, let’s fast forward to the second big transition area, where we waited for Van 2’s last runner (Ashley, the crazy sprinting machine who ROCKED all her finishes!) to hand the baton back off to me.

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Van 1, with our epic and amazing driver Nicole (third from left)!

We spent a little bit of time chilling, rehydrating, and changing, but honestly, the time FLEW during our “off” time. Even though logically I knew we had 4+ hours, between dinner, stopping at the grocery store (I have never seen anymore more excited to go to a Wegman’s than Patricia, haha!), driving to the next transition area, and having to gear up for my next leg, I didn’t really feel like I got any time to just “be”. I did, however, make sure to snag the bug spray from Melissa. It didn’t stop the three giant mosquito bites that are decorating my legs right now, but I imagine that things would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t!

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Beginning our second rotation through the running order marked the start of night legs for Van 1. This meant that not only would be running through the pitch black woods, but we had to put on some SWEET looking safety gear to do so as well. We had to have on a reflective safety vest, have a blinking light on the front and back of it, and wear a headlamp (or carry a flashlight).

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New Balance had sent us these awesome running hats a while back that have built-in LEDs in the visor, so that was super helpful. Apparently, the hat alone would have been enough to satisfy the headlamp requirement, although I didn’t know that. Still, I didn’t want to risk being mauled by a bear without seeing it coming first, so I strapped a headlamp on top of it. Elizabeth also got us all these amazing flashing rings to wear. Sexy, I know.

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Ready and waiting at the transition!

My second leg was 4.78 miles through the darkness. A little before 9 PM, Ashley handed off the baton to me and off I went!

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Despite this leg being almost twice as long as my first one, it was infinitely easier on me. It was still fairly hilly, unfortunately, but I found the solitude and quiet of running through the woods soothing. This part was literally PITCH black. There were no streetlights, only one or two houses, and a lot of forest. Even with both my lighted hat AND a headlamp, you could only see maybe 5 – 10 feet in front of you at any given time. It was a little scary, of course, to be out there essentially on your own, but I found it exhilarating. I did look over into the woods at one point and saw a the creepy reflection of a dog’s (at least, I hope it was a dog!) eyes peering out at me. That definitely motivated me to speed up, at least for a little while. Spooky!

I pounded through the first two miles at a steady pace, talking to myself like a crazy person to keep motivated. It worked! After I was about halfway done, I came out onto some main roads which were decidedly less fun to run along. The sides of the road were jacked up and pothole-y, and there were tons of cars. I was actually much more comfortable running on the deserted road with just the occasional car/van driving through, because I knew that they were A) going slowly and B) could really veer around me. On a normal two-way street, the cars were pretty uncomfortably close at some points.

I finally made it to the transition area after almost 5 miles in the dark, ready to hand it off to Jess. My team wasn’t quite expecting me yet (not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing? Haha!) so I got a few moments to catch my breath before the trade off. Leg 2 was done and done! I was 2/3rds of the way there, feeling EXHAUSTED but thrilled!

After all of our van’s second legs were done, it was about 1:45 AM. We drove straight to the next VTA to try and get some shuteye (“try” being the operative word). Even though we had been up for almost 20 hours and already ran two times, I had a really hard time getting any sleep. It was frickin’ freezing and not particularly comfortable. This may shock you to hear, but as it turns out I am a little bit too long to be able to sleep comfortably in a van, hahaha. My feet were crunched right up against the door. Oh, the curse of being 5’9″! I think I managed to eke out a solid 45 minutes of sleep (aaaaahahahahaha) before the anxiety over beginning my third (and final!) leg began.

And with that, I’ll leave you until tomorrow! Make sure you’re checking out the rest of my amazing team’s recaps, too. Each one tells a little bit of a different side of the overall, 31+ hour-long, 200-mile story!

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Posted on May 21, 2012 in Races | 30 comments

Reach the Beach MA: Part 1

We. Did. It.

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After 31 hours, 200 miles, and 2 vans full of my awe-inspiring teammates, Team Off Balance literally Reached the Beach and I could not be more proud, more happy, or more exhausted.


Our team, plus our AMAZING New Balance drivers/coaches/van moms! (via Anne)

I’m not really even sure where to start with this recap. So much has happened over the past few days — exciting, exhausting, physically and emotionally challenging things — that it’s actually kind of difficult to organize my thoughts to the point of coherency. Still, I want to get it all down while it’s fresh in my mind (and before it’s burned out of my memory by the hot Caribbean sun, haha) so I’m going to try!

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12 bloggers, 200 miles. NBD.

Our epic weekend actually began on Thursday with a New Balance factory tour (they were seriously the most AMAZING sponsor!) and a lot of team preparations (photos, logistical planning, eating of steak and carbs, haha), but I’ll circle back to all of that after I’ve recapped the actual race itself.

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Things got started bright and early Friday morning with our arrival at the starting area at the Mount Wachusett Ski Area. We had to go through a registration process, safety check, and get our team photo before we could line up, so we got there nice and early. Our team’s starting time was 10:20 AM, but I think we arrived sometime around 9.

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Because the start times for all the teams were staggered as to avoid congestion both at the beginning and end of the race, it was a bit of a different starting line experience than I’m used to. No huge crowds of people or corals to push through, just a few other teams and a decent amount of time for me to start freaking out. I was runner number 1, after all!

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Feeling excited…

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… but admittedly anxious!

My first leg was only 2.8 miles, but marked as “hard” (for good reason, as it turns out!). I was excited about the short mileage, but completely petrified about the elevation. I mean, we were at the base of a freakin’ ski resort! I was literally looking straight up the side of a mountain from the starting line.

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See the ski lifts behind me? Hahaha…ha…ha.

Despite my terror, the anticipation and excitement was still very high. My teammates did their best to keep me amped! Because of the short length and fact that this was predominantly a trail run, this was the only leg that our team didn’t give van course support on, so they really layered the support on ahead of time. 🙂 In retrospect, I’m actually kind of glad of that, since I wouldn’t have wanted them to see how much I ended up struggling!

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Anne and me at the base of the mountain.

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Theodora helping to get me pumped with her maaaaaad jump shot skillz.

Before I knew it, they were calling our team to the start and I was lined up and ready to go. At 10:20 on the dot, we were off! My entire team was cheering for me and I was so excited that it was finally starting. I high-fived them all as I ran past! 🙂

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The incline up the mountain path started right away. Seriously, from my very first step, I was headed uphill. I quickly fell to the back of the pack (uh, duh) but held up a steady step as I climbed upward.

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After about half a mile, the trail completely disappeared into the woods and I couldn’t see down to the starting area anymore. This is where things got really bad. If I thought that the initial hill at the starting line was steep, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. It was RIDICULOUS. I started to breathe extremely raggedly, and my quads and hamstrings began to seriously burn.

I was petrified that I wasn’t even going to be able to finish this one leg of the race, and every step forward was a huge mental battle. I knew I couldn’t stop though. I mean, that clearly just wasn’t an option. This was not only my first leg, but the very first leg of the entire race! I had a whole van of supportive women waiting for me on the other side. So onward I plugged, step by step.

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It doesn’t translate very well into photos, but I snapped this shot on my phone as I was making my excruciatingly slow way up the mountain path. Just pretty much think of this hill as being twice, maybe three times as steep as it looks, and maybe that’ll be an accurate representation. It was also rocky and uneven, and I definitely stumbled more than a few times. I even fell once! Luckily (?), I’m super clumsy and am always tripping and falling, plus I was jogging along at a snail’s pace, so I didn’t really hurt myself, just ended up with one or two wicked bruises on my shins to show off later.

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Aside from the unbearable, agonizing steepness, it was a really beautiful trail. There were one or two blissful 50-ish foot stretches of semi-flatness that were absolutely breathtaking. One had this little pond/waterfall was that was babbling nicely, where I was fortunate enough to be chased off by an angry bee (which definitely motivated me to keep running, haha!).

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Another stretch of the path opened up to a little viewing area with a couple of benches that looked over the entire mountain. This was the point where I started to realize how far I had climbed upward. Not too far after seeing this, the trail opened up onto the road (just a tiny bit before the 2 mile point) and things got better. Way better. Super-awesomely-downhill-better. I was so excited to be A) going downhill and B) on solid ground (not to mention feeling fairly guilty about how slowly the first 2 miles had gone) that I started to FLY. At one point I looked down at my phone and saw a 7:40 pace!

In hindsight, this was probably a terrible, terrible thing, because I was hitting the pavement HARD with each step. I definitely bruised the bottom of my right foot and it still hurts even as I write this (though to be fair, I can’t really say whether it happened during this leg or one of my others).

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Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I heard some cheering and whooping as the runner a little ways ahead of me reached the transition area, and I knew I was almost home free. There was one last tiny uphill incline at the very end (cruel!) but I powered through because I knew my van was waiting for me.

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We had a videographer along with our team for the entire race, so I’m sure he got some SUPER attractive footage of me here, hahaha.

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As you can see from my expression, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it!

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Our “baton” for the relay was actually a snap bracelet (80s throwback, what-what!), so I unhooked it from my wrist as I approached my team and slapped it onto Jess‘s wrist right as I finished!

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And that was a wrap on leg 1! To be honest with you all, I was probably the least qualified runner to tackle this insanely difficult leg. I mean, I’m sure it would have been hard for anyone, but it was seriously the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. I guess that just makes me all the more proud that I was able to do it, though! I like to think that I bit the proverbial bullet for the rest of my team by taking one the very first leg, too. You know, so that they didn’t have to. YOU ARE ALL WELCOME. 😉

I think I’ll cut off this lengthy post there. I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of Leg 2! (Well, technically, I’ll be on my way to St. Maarten tomorrow. But you get what I mean.) And in case you’re in need a refresher, here is the breakdown of Team Off Balance!


Another pilfered pic from Anne, hehe.

Van 1:

#1: Me!
#2: Jess from Fit Chick in the City
#3: Melissa from Fitness NYC
#4: Patricia from Run Foodie Run
#5: Bridget from Yogurt Berries
#6: Sarah from SarahFit

Van 2:

#7: Tina from Carrots ‘N’ Cake
#8: Monica from Run Eat Repeat
#9: Theodora from Losing Weight in the City
#10: Elizabeth from On Tap for Today
#11: Anne from Fannetastic Food
#12: Ashley from A Healthy, Happier Bear

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Posted on Apr 2, 2012 in Races | 21 comments

Cherry Blossom 5K

Boy, oh, boy. Where to begin with this one? Well, Sunday I ran the Cherry Blossom 5K and my feelings on it are… complicated. It started off as a huge cluster, unfortunately, but I still felt pretty good about it at the end. So, again, complicated. I felt the slightest bit weird about it in general, since I originally had signed up to run the 10 Miler but then dropped down to the 5K (smartest decision EVER, I should add!), but I still had my 10 Miler bib and everything. Still, I was excited to get another 5K under my belt (a distance that I’ve admitted many times to enjoying), and had plans to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law after they finished the 10 Miler.

The 10 Mile race had kicked off at 7 AM, while the 5K didn’t start until 8:40. I figured I had tons of time to get there, so I left for the Metro around 8 AM. Well, apparently I am fail at riding the metro, because even though the Smithsonian stop is only supposed to be 20 minutes away I didn’t get there until almost 9 o’clock! I hatehateHATE being late, so as soon as I got off the train, I started sprinting to try to find the 5K starting line. Unfortunately, it was blocked by the end of the 10 Miler course! Since I got there so late, there were a TON of fasssssst runners booking it towards their own finish line. I ran back to ask some race volunteers how to get across to the 5K start, and they told me that I did, in fact, have to cross the 10 Miler course… carefully. So I ended up having to wait another 4 to 5 minutes just to find a break in the stream of runners that I could sprint through (and felt like a total toolbag/douchecoaster doing so).

I tried to shake off my humiliation and continue towards the starting line… which had already been converted into the finish line. D’oh. I tried to peek at the clock to see what time I’d actually started at and I started my RunKeeper app to get some semblance of an idea of how I’ll do by the end. At this point, I was pretty disheartened. All of the stuff I love about racing — the crowds, the kick-off, the other people surrounding you — was gone. It was just me, a handful of other latecomers, and a steady stream of runners who are already heading for the finish. I had pretty much resigned myself to having a horrible race experience at this point. It was really difficult not to feel embarrassed as I trudged along by myself, despite all the encouraging words for volunteers and whatnot. I kept wanting to announce to them that I just started really late, that I wasn’t really in last place! Discouraged and already exhausted (after sprinting almost half a mile just to get through the starting gate), I ended up walking most of the first mile. Womp.

As it turned out, all was not lost, however. I did make a friend on the course, a fellow latecomer and 10 Miler drop-downer. After commiserating with her for a little while, I started to get a little bit of my spirit back. We started jogging again, and once we hit the turnaround point I was feeling much better. At this point, we began to pass the majority of the walkers, and as we ran back over the Memorial Bridge one of the volunteers yelled out “You caught up! I remember seeing you on the other side. How did you catch up so fast?!” which made me feel pretty good, haha. The second half of the race went by much faster, and was generally much more pleasant as we passed groups of people and the finish line came into view. I caught sight of Jenny and Dan (who had already finished their 10 Miles before I could even finish my 3.1, haha) near the end and started to really book it. I sprinted across the finish line and, though I don’t have an official read on my time, ended up finishing in ~38 minutes. Not a record by any means, but given my craptastic start and the fact that I walked in the beginning, I actually feel pretty good about. (I also feel I should remind myself that my very first 5K — which I didn’t walk at all during — took me over 40 minutes to complete.)

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In the end, all’s well that ends well, and despite its less-than-stellar beginnings, the race did serve as a good reminder that the actual 3.1 mile distance is totally doable. With a little more dedicated outdoor training (since I’ve been doing almost 100% treadmill runs lately), I know I’ll be able to get back up to a 4 mile running stamina for the Reach the Beach Relay in May.

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The last item on the agenda before Jenny, Dan, and I braved the smelly Metro back to Falls Church was to pick up the 10 Miler finisher medal that I had prematurely ordered, hahaha. Oops. At least you can’t argue about my INTENTIONS to have run that race, right? I bequeathed it to my very deserving sister instead. 🙂

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So the name of the game now is simply to continue training for the RTB Relay, go out with a bang there, and then never have to run ever again! Bahahaha. 😉

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Posted on Jan 16, 2012 in Dear Diary, Races | 16 comments

Will Walk for Wine

Yesterday, I participated in the race to end all races.

Starting Line

1K, 1 glass, dozens of wines to taste. I know, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

1K Wine Walk

At times, I didn’t think we’d be able to make it.

Will Walk For WineReema

But when the going got tough, we simply drank more wine, rallied, and were inevitably able to (drunkenly) cross that finish line! Huzzah!

The Longest Stretch

When Reema told me about the Washington Wine Academy’s 1K Wine Walk, I was almost too excited for words. Not only was it a wine tasting event, but it was structured like a race! Sign me up!

Prep

The premise, as you can imagine, was really cute. You signed up for a specific “heat”, got 20 (!) wine tasting tickets, a bib, t-shirt, and wine glass, then wound your way through the Shops at Crystal City (I was grateful that it was indoor!) to hit up the Wine Stations that had various samplings of vino and food.

Wine Station

The event was on both Saturday and Sunday, with heats starting every half-hour throughout the entire day. We had chosen a thoroughly un-busy 4:30 heat, which made getting to the starting and t-shirt area a little bit confusing at first. Once we figured things out, however, it was nice not having to deal with tons of people (I’m sure Saturday was much crazier — which can also be tons of fun though!)

Duck Pond

All of the “wine stations” were set up in various empty shop spaces, so they were out of the way of the main walkway. Most of the Crystal City Shops seemed to be closed on Sunday (not sure if they’re closed on the weekends in general?) so there weren’t too many pedestrians being mowed over by thirsty winos, haha. I found quite a few wines that were really delightful, and enjoyed sampling them. My only complaint is that a lot of the wine stations seemed to have run out of several of their wines, which seemed a little unfair since we signed up for our heat times in advance. I still got sufficiently tipsy though, so I guess that all’s well that ends well, haha.

Tapa

A few of the stations were sponsored by restaurants so there was a small spread of food available too. I was admittedly a little disappointed that there wasn’t more available though (most of the stations just had big bowls of white baguette slices). One of the sponsoring restaurants was Jaleo, so I did get to try a little egg tostada type thing from there (delicious!) and there was also a station set-up by Cabot Cheese, which you know I destroyed.

The SpreadLibations

While the food and wine on the actual “race” course may not have been plentiful, the final wine station that you got to once you crossed the finish line was hopping with both. There were 10 wine tasting stations there, as well as a buffet line of cheese, grapes, nuts, and candy. There was also a DJ pumping out tunes (Party ROCK!) and lots of red-faced “racers” getting down on the dance floor. A really fun way to end the event!

Champeen!Jump for Vino!

Despite having a few complaints, I still really loved this event. It was a fun, creative spin on a traditional wine tasting, and given my love for wine and my, er, masochistic interest in racing, it felt like it was made specifically for me! The $40 entry fee seemed a little high at first, but given that I received a t-shirt, wine glass, and TWENTY wine tasting tickets (I definitely wasn’t able to use all of them), I’d say it was well worth it. I would definitely do this event again, although next time I’d probably want to pick an earlier and more popular/bustling heat, and go on Saturday instead of Sunday.

Have any of you ever participated in an event like this? They are also doing a 1K Beer Walk this coming weekend (the 21st and 22nd) if you’re interested!

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